Policy ForumGun-Violence Research

Saving lives by regulating guns: Evidence for policy

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Science  08 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1259-1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3067

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Gun violence is a leading cause of death in the United States, where over 36,000 people were killed by gunshot in 2015 [including homicide, suicide, and accident (1)]. The gun-murder rate is 25 times as high in the United States as in other high-income nations, and the gun-suicide rate is eight times as high (2). Interpersonal gun violence has deleterious effects on economic development and standard of living in heavily impacted neighborhoods (3). Given this heavy burden, it is greatly concerning that many aspects of the body of research on gun violence have been deemed inadequate and inconclusive by expert panels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (46). Fortunately, the flow of high-quality research has increased in recent years. Although the CDC largely withdrew from funding research on gun violence more than 20 years ago (under intense congressional pressure), there are active research programs in medicine, public health, law, and the social sciences under way in universities and think tanks. This good news, often lost in the well-justified complaints about the lack of federal funding, deserves greater recognition. New findings are providing a sound evidence base for policy-making and, among other contributions, have helped demonstrate efficacy in three important domains of gun policy: add-on sentences for gun use in violent crime, bans on gun possession by those convicted of domestic violence, and restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public.